60 thoughts on “Target’s PR By Committee

  1. Gary Pettis says:

    One could assume that the handling of the pleasures and the pitfalls of corporate politicking PR is not among the core competencies of the Target PR team. Plus, PR types working within a large, layered organization frequently react to the whims of the executives.

    That is, in the majority of cases, instead of working a strategy, press releases are cranked out as if on an assembly line with little focus on the big picture before or after a corporate act or decision creates a ripple effect in the press.

    In large organizations, internal communications (HR) might not be exactly joined at the hip with the quintessential PR pros, creating a disconnect in messaging when the communications to employees is out of synch with what the press is being told.

    A general rule in life is that people are not as polished and on top of the details as one outside of the Ivory Tower would think.

    Bureaucracies with sharply dressed employees can deliver a poor or ineffective response to an initial dumb move just as well as a small organization with a lean, tee-shirt-wearing staff can. In fact, they are more prone to bumbling and lack of decisions due to the fact that their employees function in a meeting culture and form time-consuming and consensus-building committees to solve problems.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      I agree with your assessment about many companies, Gary.

      It’s obviously impossible to know what the internal dynamic was with this particular company in this particular case, but it’s mind-boggling that it took them several months to decide that the grand solution was an internal committee.

      That either is a sign of a) lots of bureaucracy and/or indecision or b) a strategy to wait out the firestorm. Either way, the status quo position prevailed.

      1. Ellen Mrja says:

        I think they should form a task force to study the wisdom of the proposal of relying on an internal committee. First, of course, they’ll have to find a time for the task force members to meet. That should take into the summer. Then, they’ll have to make certain their task force is not duplicitive of the efforts of any other task force currently being run by the corporation. So, they could establish a task force on task forces to make sure this is not the case. By then – if the task forces and their members have all fulfilled their roles – the issue(s) at stake should be moot because Election 2012 will be over. And everyone will be happy.

        Oh, and by the way, I STILL refuse to shop at any store that denies any American their full Constitutional rights.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      That would be a shame, but it sure looks that way. However, my point is that even if they now want to have a reputation like most corporations, instead of like the Classic Target many of us so admired, they aren’t going to be treated like most corporations on this issue, for the reasons cited at the end of the post. The news media and interest groups are going to hold them to a higher standard. It’s naive of them to think otherwise.

    1. Mike Kennedy says:

      Personally, I think the company is just doing the obligatory “Sorry” and moving on. Its financials look pretty strong and the stock price hit its 52 week high in January (down a bit now, though).

      It looks to be opening a slew on new stores and the profit margin is still pretty healthy, given the general conditions.

      Also, PM, I had a change to have some Surly Abrasive at a local eatery.

      However, I found it was not advisable to partake of this strong brew when eating a Madras chicken curry dish that on a Minnesota hot scale probably registered a 10. Lucky I had someone to drive.

      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        It is easy to have a lot of that.

        St. Cloud had a micro brew festival a few weeks ago at the Civic Center — sold 2,000 tickets and turned about another 500 away. There were 30 microbrews present, and from what I understand, Abrasive took the honor of the top dog.

  2. Isn’t Target expanding into Canada soon? They haven’t seemed to suffer financially from last year’s debacle.

    The best answer is for the Citizens United decision to be overturned, or for new legislation to be written that somehow overrides / nullifies it.

    Legislators: are you listening?

  3. Newt says:

    EVERY Fortune 100 company lobbies and backs candidates. The more Target attempts to placate fringe lunatic kooks, the more it takes its eye off the ball.

    P.S. Target has been kicking ass in earnings. This nonsense is no longer is about business risk. It’s about getting a Chihuaha off their pant leg.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      The Chihuahua analogy is apt. Not life-threatening, but it slows you down a step and the noise gets annoying and distracting. I just don’t see that the upside of them playing politics is larger than the downside of the yapping and nipping.

      1. Gary Pettis says:

        In my opinion, the issue is not whether or not a corporation should make contributions to its choice of political candidates or parties, its about perceived hypocrisy and questions about really who are these men behind the Target curtain.

        For years, Target has enacted a progressive diversity campaign internally recognizing the efforts of employees who come from diverse backgrounds, including gays and lesbians. It has been recognized as a leader in rolling out these kinds of campaigns.

        So making the $150,00 in contributions to the group running pro-Emmer ads seemed extremely out of character considering Target’s well-oiled image and reputation. That’s what all of the fuss is about. It’s what attracted the press attention.

        It calls into question the leadership at the corporation’s top levels, who seemed blind to its values and stake in the community. In the case of Target, it’s never a question of whether or not the ship is going to sink, it’s a question of who are the captains of the ship and whether or not they are capable or incompetent to set a sturdy course.

        McDonnell Douglas would suffer the same fallout if it made contributions that were for pro-CODEPINK candidates.

    2. PM says:

      Yes, of course they all lobby, but I am not certain about the second part of your assertion–do you have any support for it? I certainly agree that they would all have political action committees, and the the top execs would certainly be politically active, but both of those examples would be with their own $$$, not with corporate $$$$.

      In fact, i think I remember that General Mills said that they do not contribute corporate $$ to candidates.

    3. Uh, Newt? Target’s spent a lot of time and money trying to sell itself as gay-friendly. Or have you been under a rock for the past twenty years? C’mon, go back to your Koch-funded boiler room and tell your bosses they need to refresh the talking points they hand out to their webpage trolling lackeys.

      Should I even bother to try and point out what a bad idea it is for a business trying to sell itself as gay-friendly to be donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to rabidly antigay Republicans like Tom Emmer and Michele Bachmann? (And don’t be fooled: MN Forward was set up to be a Tom Emmer media shop; they did some pro-forma lit drops for a few Dems, but that was maybe a few hundred bucks out of the hundreds of thousands in TV and other ads that went to Emmer et al.)

  4. Joe Loveland says:

    Some other coverage makes it sound like Target hasn’t yet decided whether it will continue making political donations to candidates. For instance, the Washington Gay Blade reports:

    (Target Spokesperson Jessica) Carlson added the new policy committee will determine whether Target will make political contributions directly to candidates, political parties or to other groups such as 527 or 501(c)(4) committees.

    The use of the word “whether” instead of “how” makes me wonder if Target will still end up making political contributions to candidates. If they do move away from candidate contributions, they sure are making it hard on themselves PR-wise by moving so slowing.

    Interesting that the Star Tribune didn’t read this way. It’s story spoke of a “vetting of contributions…” by the committee, implying that political contributions would continue.

    Also interesting that the Strib didn’t report the Awl finding that contributions to anti-gay rights candidates continued after the apology.

    1. The Strib’s fallen far from its glory days under the Cowles family. Republican operative Doug Tice runs the editorial page, and has finally achieved his long-term goal of dumping Nick Coleman while giving space to brain-dead GOP shills like Katherine Kersten (among whose many infamies is the howlingly funny story of The Great Nonexistent Northfield Minnesota Smack Epidemic: http://phoenixwoman.wordpress.com/2007/07/16/in-which-miss-gulch-gets-pwned-like-a-pwny-thing/) and Jason Lewis.

      The word is apparently out among the reporters: Treat GOPers with kid gloves whenever possible, and swallow uncritically whatever they say: http://www.bluestemprairie.com/bluestemprairie/2011/02/the-mirror-of-earmarks-or-republicans-tell-kevin-diaz-they-hate-themselves.html

      Things have got so bad there that even the somnolent Columbia Journalism Review has recently been stirred to shake its finger at the TiceStrib: http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2011/01/star_tribune_bachmann_coverage_slammed_by_watchdog.php

      Sadly, the PiPress across the river is even worse.

      1. Ellen Mrja says:

        Phoenix Woman: I like your style. I’m adding your blog, Mercury Rising, to our blogroll. I especially appreciate that you’re not afraid to call out the TC media players.

    2. john sherman says:

      Gee, “a group of senior executives to insure ‘a variety of perspectives’.” That ought to produce a range all the way from tweedledee to tweedledum. It does, however, raise the larger problem of socialization; one of the reasons for the fact that the political class, media super stars and economic elite make judgments about the lives of ordinary people so removed from demonstrable fact is that they only associate with each other, and since they’re all in the same economic class, they all have the same class interest, which usually isn’t much like that of the rest of us.

  5. Newt says:

    Let’s be honest here. None of you objects to corporate donations to candidates – only the candidates Target backed.

    I also notice that none of you protests Big Labor backing of candidates.

    I’m waiting for the Teamsters to appoint a group of union bosses “to ensure a variety of perspectives” in the selection of candidates to back.

    You people are a joke.

      1. Gary Pettis says:

        Catchy little tune. It will be stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

        Sort of makes me want to jump on a bus to Madison, Wisconsin, grab a hold of some picket sign, hold it above proudly and start chanting some keen chants like “Kill the Bill.”

        After a long day of picketing, me and some of the local teachers on the picket line (and other bussed in protesters) could break out the vino and talk about how our demonstration sort of had a 60’s vibe. That’s right. Just like to good old days. Peace, love and disrupting school schedules for a few days.

        Doobies anyone? Because we’re protesting, nothing wrong with breaking a few minor laws, especially when there are no victims involved.

        By golly, I bet there are some single parents out there or both parents working low paying jobs who had to stay home to watch the kids while the teachers played hooky. They might have loss some wages, but who cares if others suffer when me and my protester mates exercise our Union rights?

        Us here on the picket line have a point to prove because we’re Union folk or at least pretend to be.

        Guess the teachers and their followers and me don’t like working for the Man (or Woman, for that matter). Give me any authority figure and on a day of protest, I will spit in his or her eye and then accept a paycheck every two weeks afterward.

        Damn ’em anyway, those that want to mess with me benefits. I’m entitled, you know. Deserve everything that’s coming to me. If those people in the private sector want my kind of collective-bargaining privileges, tell ’em to get themselves some government work.

        . . . I’m sticking with the Union until the day I die.

      2. Gary Pettis says:

        Empty nester myself. But what’s happening in Wisconsin has me a little testy.

        There has not been a lot of coverage about what are the consequences, intended or unintended, caused by the Madison protests, as well as the Democratic senators taking an unplanned leave of absence away from the Capitol. I hear the sound of dominoes clicking.

        We’re seeing in color one of those Animal Farm moments, “all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.”

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      Sir Newton, I’m being honest here. I don’t want Target so endorse ANY candidates, including those I like.

      If Target announced today that they were only supporting pro-gay rights candidates henceforth, I would say they would be every bit as exposed PR-wise as they are today.

      They need to get out of their multi-gazillion dollar brand out of the political firing line.

      1. Newt says:

        So you’re fine taking Delta flights knowing that the AFL-CIO machinists back specific candidates?

        Notice any patterns by Labor donations?

        Top 20 Recipients

        Rank Candidate Office Amount
        1 Critz, Mark (D-PA) House $396,500
        2 Sestak, Joseph A Jr (D-PA) House $385,800
        3 Hoyer, Steny H (D-MD) House $361,700
        4 Carnahan, Robin (D-MO) $361,100
        5 Murphy, Scott (D-NY) House $360,600
        6 Chu, Judy (D-CA) House $359,650
        7 Hanabusa, Colleen (D-HI) $339,400
        8 Hodes, Paul W (D-NH) House $339,250
        9 Garamendi, John (D-CA) House $338,500
        10 Bishop, Timothy H (D-NY) House $333,750
        11 Schauer, Mark (D-MI) House $324,525
        12 Clyburn, James E (D-SC) House $317,000
        13 Sutton, Betty Sue (D-OH) House $311,880
        14 Reid, Harry (D-NV) Senate $309,600
        15 Dahlkemper, Kathleen (D-PA) House $309,200
        16 Hare, Phil (D-IL) House $303,010
        17 Pelosi, Nancy (D-CA) House $302,500
        18 Connolly, Gerry (D-VA) House $300,700
        19 Schumer, Charles E (D-NY) Senate $299,250
        20 Boxer, Barbara (D-CA) Senate $295,250

      2. Mike Kennedy says:

        Newt’s list is telling, and probably not complete.

        It’s why the Citizens United ruling will stand and should stand.

        I believe any organization, business or person should be allowed to contribute — with a cap on total dollar contributions and full disclosure of said contributions. Then let people decide.

  6. Ellen Mrja says:

    Newt: I’m calling you out. The top 4 House of Representatives who raised the most in 2010 were (…drumroll…..)

    Bachmann, Michele (R)*
    (Minnesota District 06) $13,517,222

    Boehner, John (R)*
    (Ohio District 08) $9,796,947

    West, Allen B (R)
    (Florida District 22) $6,542,738

    Cantor, Eric (R)*
    (Virginia District 07) $5,955,025

    source: http://www.opensecrets.org/overview/topraise.php

    1. Newt says:

      Ellen – this thread originally was about special interest group donations to individual candidates.

      We certainly can have your conversation, but please recognize that it’s a different one.

  7. Ellen Mrja says:

    Gary Pettis: Wow. Do you have union envy or something? Or is it just teachers you despise? (Who taught you?)
    Maybe you and your guys can step in and teach the children in Wisconsin. But, you won’t. Why not? Probably because you wouldn’t be able to handle even one week in the typical public school classroom. It’s easier just to bitch about the teachers who hit the trenches every day and have now suddenly and so rudely inconvenienced you by making YOU responsible for the care of your child.
    Fact is the public teachers in Wisconsin tried to meet with the governor 17 times and he wouldn’t take their meetings. They offered to take cuts in pay and add to their own pensions. But he wants to be a big hero, Tea Party-union buster.
    Well, I hope it all backfires and reinvigorates the unions instead. I hope the teachers stay out until parents BEG them to come back to the classrooms at any cost.

    1. Gary Pettis says:

      I credit the high quality of my education to give me the ability to lampoon the Wisconsin government employee demonstrators, including the teachers who left their posts in the classroom and joined the demonstration in Madison.

      In fact, I had a couple of outstanding teachers who encouraged me to always stand up and speak my mind even when what I would be saying would not be popular among some.

      The topic of Unions, like sex, religion and politics, is something that should not be brought up in conversation unless there is a clear understanding of the audience’s position and perception. At least that’s what some people would say. I bet there are a few who frequently post to the Crowd who disagree.

      But I am convinced that the stature and the role of Unions are at the crossroads: stay the same and risk becoming irrelevant or change to adjust to the changes of the 21st century.

      So let’s talk, debate–or whatever– because the actions and motives of government-employee Unions will be part of our national dialogue from here on out. A reason for this is that unemployment is still hovering around nine percent and a large number of Baby Boomers are marching daily toward retirement. The budget that is now available to local, state and federal governments will not be able to pay for many of the Union benefits that were once afforded to many government workers.

      Throw in this mix the lingering recession, the size of the Federal Government’s debt, and the misguided demand to raise taxes, well, “Houston, we got a problem.”

      Most Union and non-Union people with whom I have shared the same job and had the same employer were good people interested in delivering a better than average job performance and wanted to be part of a quality effort. Some of them unhappy with pay or type of job would move on, find another job or pursue the education that would reward them with a higher income. Others sought employment that provided job security and stability and turned to Union jobs for them.

      But what is happening in Madison is out of whack with most American’s understanding of what Union’s are all about, and thus, I believe, the demonstrators are not galvanizing a lot of support outside of their own circles. After the Capitol hallways are swept and the protest signs tossed in the garbage, these teachers will return to the classrooms. Job security is real especially when the winds of change blow through the land.

      For the record: workers are workers and that includes teachers. Some good. Some bad. Some can be ineffectual for an eight-hour work day because their qualifications and temperance do not make them suitable for the job. Some can change a life by offering inspiration and create a bound that can last a lifetime.

      You can check out this link and read the WEAC’s official statement and draw your own conclusions:


      Look at the posted comments, especially: Posted by: Anonymous on Feb 18, 2011 at 04:02 PM

      So far, Ellen has offered the only response I have heard about the people financially-harmed by the demonstration: loosely, the response is: “sorry for the inconvenience.”

      1. Festus says:


        Forbes [Rick Ungar]:
        “No rational individual would dispute the preeminence of corporate interests in America. While most of us are not happy about this, we don’t really know what we can do about it as we simply do not have the money or clout to buy the power corporate money can buy.

        That’s where the unions come in. Without the collective bargaining powers that unions bring as the only real offset to corporate greed and without the organizing strength unions bring to political action, there will be no counter-balance to corporate power. I promise that you will not like the result if our unions should disappear – even if you are not a union member.

        For these reasons, I would argue that anyone who does not find themselves among the 5% of the wealthiest in America, should stand up and declare, “Today, we are all Cheeseheads.”

        Failing to support Wisconsin unions would be a mistake for which we will pay dearly for generations to come.”

    1. Festus says:


      “MacIver Institute:

      The MacIver Institute is a think thank that bills itself as “the free market voice for Wisconsin.” On April 9, its website, referring to the Voter Protection Act, warned that “a massive push to facilitate voter fraud” was underway and called on the public to “act soon.” It followed up with another warning on April 13 about the “vote fraud bill on fast track.” After the Voter Protection Act died, an “Open Letter to Wisconsin Tea Partiers” posted on its website thanked them for their hard work in defeating the “Alinsky brigade” and its efforts to pass clean energy and “election deform” legislation. And in a May 10 post entitled “Tea Party Impact Ongoing,” a checklist of Wisconsin Tea Party accomplishments included “Stop Vote Fraud legislation.”

      The MacIver Institute has numerous ties to the ‘Kochtopus.’ Mark Block, the AFP Wisconsin state director and a key figure in the alleged voter suppression plot, sits on MacIver’s board of directors. MacIver and AFP Wisconsin also share two other board members, David Fettig and Fred Luber. MacIver also works closely with AFP Wisconsin as part of the Wisconsin Prosperity Network, along with another group with ties to Koch funding, American Majority. The think tank also participates in the Koch-funded Institute for Humane Studies’ Koch Summer Fellows Program and is a member of the Koch-funded State Policy Network. “

    2. Joe Loveland says:

      Pat Kessler’s Reality Check segment on WCCO-TV points out the differences between the relative “fatness” of MN public unions and WI public unions.

      Governor Scott Walker is demanding public workers boost their pension contributions from 0 percent to 5 percent. In Minnesota, on the other hand, the 43,000 members of AFSCME already contribute 5.0 percent.

      Wisconsin is also asking its public workers to increase health care contributions from 6 percent to 12 percent. Minnesota AFSCME workers already contribute 15 percent.

      I do give credit to WI unions for being willing to negotiate, and blame to the Governor for refusing negotiations and going nuclear on collective bargaining rights, but it’s worth noting that the benefits situation is very different with MN public unions.

      1. What Kessler DIDN’T point out is that Wisconsin public employees haven’t had pay increases in two years AND have already done 16 unpaid furlough days in that time: http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/479560/disqus?page=entire

        So Newt’s divide-and-conquer fantasy is bull.

        There’s a reason that over two-thirds of Wisconsinites think Walker’s way out of line on this.

        There’s a reason that even the Archbishop of Milwaukee, not known for lipping off to Republican pols, is calling Walker’s and the state GOP’s moves “immoral”: http://firedoglake.com/2011/02/19/cal-ripken-was-right-and-madison-proves-it/

        By the way: That “budget deficit”? Walker created it, with his tax breaks for his buddies: http://news.firedoglake.com/2011/02/16/obama-on-wisconsin-seems-like-more-of-an-assault-on-unions/

        Also by the way, this is a Koch brothers production, from ALEC (the group behind the anti-worker bills in WI and elsewhere) to the “Stand with Walker” astroturf site to the teabaggers being bussed in from across the country much as Hosni Mubarak sent his paid goons to harass the protesters in Tahrir Square: http://firedoglake.com/2011/02/19/come-saturday-morning-alec-the-koch-funded-group-thats-stealing-your-rights-and-your-birthright/

    3. Ellen Mrja says:

      Newt: The claim that the AVERAGE (yet) teacher compensation in Milwaukee “is north of $100K” is bull.

  8. john sherman says:

    In a brief, but helpful, piece in the strib (1/11/11), Jay Kiedrowski compared Minnesota in 2000 with MN in 2010, and one of the points of comparisons was the pension funds: “At the end of 1999, state employees’ were 109 percent funded; state teachers’ pensions, 106 percent, and local government employees’, 90 percent. By 2009, state employees’ had dropped to 86 percent, state teachers’ to 77 percent and local government employees’ to 70 percent.”

    What happened in that decade was not that the unions hornswoggled the Pawlenty administration into signing devious contracts, but that the Wall Streeters raked up trillions of dollars into big pile and torched the pile. I know they are too big to fail and too important to jail, but can’t we at least blame them for what they actually did rather than trying to push the responsibility off on unions.

    I don’t understand why anyone offers, or accepts, the argument addressed to the middle class that runs, “Once many of you had jobs with good pay, reasonable benefits and a certain amount of security, but now for many that’s all gone, but people in union jobs still often have those benefits, so your life will be better if you support reducing union members to your level of misery.”

    While the central recent economic fact of recent times is the Wall Street flame out based on short sighted greed and dishonesty, the central fact of the last forty or so years is the transfer of the share of national wealth to the top 2 percent away from the rest of us. It’s not exactly a surprise that this coincided with the decline of unions which are a real force for improving the conditions of wage earners, even among those aren’t in unions, by setting standards that all employers have to meet. For example, those who have decent health insurance through their employers owe a debt of gratitude to the UAW, USW and UMWof A for setting the pattern in the late 40’s and early 50’s.

    1. Mike Kennedy says:

      Wall Street played a big part of the financial flame out, but you don’t have speculation without excess money floating around the system, and that money came from the Fed and foreign investors . All that money sloshing around caused a lot of greed — on the part of bankers, Wall Street, homeowners, mortgage companies and investors, including union pension funds.

      Excess money fueled by phony valuations and perpetuated by flat out greed is always a recipe for disaster.

      The sad fact is that everyone thought these toxic shit piles were safe — even the idiotic rating agencies that gave them high ratings.

      Rates of return that sound to good to be true are…..well, you know the rest.

      We are where we are financially and now we have to figure out a way to get healthy again. Pension funds are part of that but so are wage increases and health benefits, none of which are likely to be as generous as in the past.

      You would think after a couple centuries of booms and busts, bubbles and panics, we would have learned some lessons by now.

      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        Good suggestion. Haven’t read the entire thing — only a few parts. It’s on my reading list.

        Another good one is “Manias, Panics and Crashes.” It’s a bit dry but very good. Both are timeless classics.

      2. john sherman says:

        Some time after the S&L debacle it occurred to me that at any given time there are only a certain number of investments that are sane and prudent, but many investment professionals are in deal or die business, so when they run out of sane investments they seek out crazy ones rather do nothing.

        The obvious solution is regulation. There was an interesting piece on NPR about Florida real estate which pointed out that one of the few bright spots was Canadians buying vacation or investment housing in Florida, and they could do so because they could get home equity loans. They could get these loans because their houses had held their value because Canada imposed regulations on banks that kept them from going nuts.

        I know that there’s a conservative mantra that holds that government has a maniacal desire to regulate everything and these regulations inevitably crush initiative and hamper business. As far as I can see, regulations come about in response to a crisis or disaster. Actually, if the guys who invented cdo’s had decided to spend more time with their families or walk their dogs on the beach instead due to oppressive regulation, we would all be better off. The “idiotic rating agencies” probably wouldn’t have been quite so idiotic if they hadn’t made their money from firms they were supposed to rate.

      3. Mike Kennedy says:

        I agree with much of what you say. However, there were regulators who tried to call attention to the danger — several during Clinton’s term, who were dismissed by Rubin, Summers and Greenspan. Those regulators remain unsung heroes.

        It wasn’t a lack of regulations. It was a lack of enforcement and someone taking the initiative.

        CDOs didn’t get bought by non sophisticated investors. Furthermore, they worked just fine when applied to corporate credits. It was when they morphed into the mortgage market that they became toxic.

        Again, combine a new investment in the mortgage market with loose money, Wall Street money making incentives, valuations that were rising faster than anyone should have expected and politicians and regulators encouraging continued home buying and you have doom.

        The rating agencies were sanctioned by Congress and were making piles of money rating all that shit favorably. Everyone was making money and getting their wheels greased……….until they weren’t.

    2. Ellen Mrja says:

      John: You’ve got this so right. The ultimate in corporate-oligarchic success has been in convincing those with middle-to-low incomes believe that THEY are being threatened by proposals involving estate taxes or raising the upper tax rates, etc.

      Before anyone jumps in to tell me how small businesses need those tax breaks to create jobs and the uber-upper class needs those breaks because they create wealth, well that’s BS, too. If so, the economy should have rocked in the years of Bush II. Instead, recession.

      Reagan’s trickle down economics (which never did work) have provided the theoretical sell for the working class member who will actually argue against his own interests. Unbelievable.

      1. john sherman says:

        Ellen, on the two conservative claims you bring up, I think the public, i.e, the media and the commentariat, have accepted them uncritically. Sharon Schmickle had a piece in MNpost a while back making a really good point: viz. small business pay taxes other than income, like property and sales taxes. Pawlenty’s practice of keeping the state budget in line by stiffing the local units had the inevitable effect of pushing up property taxes. Go down Main street of most places and ask the bkusiness owners how much harm raising the income tax on those making over $150 K would do them, I bet the most frequent answer would be, “I wish.” On the other hand, ask them what’s happened to their property taxes, and you’d get a quite different answer.

        I think the claim that the super-rich create jobs needs to be looked at more closely; some do some don’t at least not in any important way. The last time I looked at the list of the ten richest Americans, four had the surname Walton. My impression is that they have no connection with the operation of Walmart, so whether the tax rates take a few tens of millions away from them more or less has no connection with whether more stores will open or jobs be created. The same is basically true for everybody else who is rich simply because their ancestors were rich.

        A fair number of high incomes are concentrated in the media, entertainment, sports, celebrity complex; more money for them doesn’t create jobs in any systematic way–an extra bling polisher here, a paparazzi-basher there, but they’re not exactly setting up factories in Ohio. Alan Grayson estimated that extending the Bush tax rates put $13 million more in Rush Limbaugh’s ample jeans, but if the past is any guide, that largess won’t mean he’ll hire a fact checker.

        How about the inventors and the entrepreneurs? Look a the first gilded age, largely men born in the 1840’s and flourishing at the turn of the century, there are people like Goodyear and Firestone who invented products that people found desirable. the producing of which created stable jobs. However, there are also people like Astor, Mellon and Rockefeller whose ample talents were largely devoted to stifling competition, crushing unions, screwing customers and corrupting politicians; I’m not sure whether this group cost or created more jobs.

        If we are going to use the tax system to reward job creation, then we ought to reward the demonstrable creation of actual jobs and not just the theoretical proposition that these rewards might create jobs.

      2. Mike Kennedy says:

        Oh boy, just when we agree on something along comes this.

        Yes, jobs are important, but so is the ability to afford the things that make life easier — such as oil did at the turn of the century.

        The Robber Barron myth continues unabated to this day, fueled by those who don’t understand history.

        Why is it, when Rockefeller supposedly busted unions, bought out competitors (as in they agreed to sell) and did all this “damage” that the price of oil continued to decline?

        Could it have been that his operations were more efficient and created bigger supplies?

        To far left, anything that is large and profitable is bad (thus Wal Mart is evil). After all, people can’t get super rich and companies can’t get huge without screwing everyone in their wake, right?

        The evidence is in and has been for quite a while. Not only did the “Robber Barrons” provide goods and services at lower costs, making life better for millions, they left much of their fortune to charitable causes from churches to the arts to libraries and on and on.

        Gates and Buffet aren’t doing a thing new by leaving most of their vast fortunes to the betterment of society. They are copying those who came before them.

        BTW, most economists agree that true supply side economics has never been practiced here — hard to render a verdict on something that has never occurred.

  9. Joe Loveland says:

    Who knows, maybe the Committee will make the right decision. As I said before, I think the way out of the PR spanking machine is for Target to say something like this:

    “Over the last few months, we listened carefully to our customers and community partners, and had a thoughtful internal discussion. We ultimately decided that we will continue to encourage our employees to participate in their democracy as individuals. We’ll continue to speak out about the policies that are most supportive of our business. But out of respect from our customers and community partners of varying political beliefs, we will not make corporate donations to groups advocating for or against any political candidate.”

    They need to remove their brand from the political arena. These halfway fixes, such as the non-apology apology and the Committee, leave them exposed over the long-term.

  10. Joe Loveland says:

    Philadelphia Magazine pointed out the Lady Gaga angle of this issue today:

    “But as of last week, when Lady Gaga announced an album distribution deal with Target (fans will be able to buy an exclusive deluxe edition of her new album Born This Way come May 23) the mood changed a bit. With the music deal comes the requirement that the retailer not only reform its past support of anti-gay initiatives, but it must also proactively donate to LGBT charities. The pop star told Billboard magazine that the negotiation was “intense” and that the deal “hinged upon their reform.” There’s no word on how much Target will dole out to gay causes.”

  11. Joe Loveland says:

    Okay, now I’m really confused. The opening of today’s LA Times editorial reads:

    Target has adopted new guidelines for donations to trade associations that prohibit the use of the company’s contributions in political campaigns. The decision is a victory for gay rights activists, who objected to the retailer’s donation to a group that supported a candidate opposed to same-sex marriage. But Target’s turnaround has a wider importance. It shows that consumers and activists can hold corporations accountable for their political participation.

    Can I go back to Target now? Is that really the new Target policy? The Target policy is being described several different ways in current coverage: It’s just a committee that will decide something in the future (Strib)…Target has agreed to Lady Gaga’s demand that Target give more to LGBT groups and “reform it’s support of anti-gay initiatives” (Philadelphia magazine and lots of LGBT publications)…”Target has adopted new guidelines for donations to trade associations that prohibit the use of the company’s contributions in political campaigns” (LAT).

    The vagueness of this policy announcement is likely to lead to more Chihuahua nipping.

  12. john sherman says:

    Mike, I don’t seem to be able to tack directly on to your response, but that’s what I’m responding to.

    Aw jeez, the old it hasn’t truly been tried chestnut on supply side; the last time I heard that sort of argument was from a Communist claiming that Communism hadn’t failed because it had never really been tried. Besides I thought Chile was the shining star of supply side, at least until the star dimmed.

    Let’s try an alternative hypothesis on why oil got cheaper and more common say a century ago, and that would be that it’s another example of technology getting better and cheaper over time, at least when demand exists. In short it resembles the process by which the computing power that used to take a computer the size of a warehouse now can be held in your hand, only applied to the locating, extracting and shipping of petroleum. And that process would have taken place pretty much the same way even if Rockefeller’s monopolistic practices had been much less successful; his special skill wasn’t in technology but it doing things which, the moment after he did them, everybody said “why isn’t that illegal?”

    I don’t understand how conservatives can praise competition and then turn around and honor the monopolists who stifle competition. With big business orators competition comes in well ahead of motherhood and flag, except every time I look in the paper I see that International Humongous has just merged with Universal Gigantico and executives of both express their satisfaction with improving their competitive position, i.e. getting rid of competition, or at least turning it into the competition of the left pocket against the right pocket in the same pair of pants. A few months ago I was looking at the business section of the strib and there on the front page was a story about a local manufacturer of a medical device, in this case a blood sugar monitor which would automatically alert a diabetic. The device had cleared the FDA and in fact the first product run had sold out, and the company was looking for funding to do a second run–looking to no avail. No money available. Then in the inner pages was a story about how mergers and acquisitions were going great guns.

    I admit to not understanding history, but what I do understand is that on every issue large or small, there are qualified historians taking every possible position. It’s unfathomable to me that some people aren’t interested in history, but we have to be careful about what we do with it because a lot of claims about using history are really a species of argument by analogy, and while analogy is great for getting thinking going, by definition it cannot be demonstrative.

    With charity as with job creation, some of the super rich did, and some didn’t. Some founded great artistic, humanitarian or medical institutions; some founded left or right wing think tanks; some left their money to their descendants, some of whom are supporting cocaine cartels.

    Bill Gates is an interesting case. As a Mac user, I’ve stayed out of arguments about his virtue as a software developer and have no idea, but there are several court decisions that indicate that he is a skilled monopolist. His father is on record saying that estate taxes are okay and the rich ought to pay more taxes; maybe Gates’ philanthropy is a sort of agreement.

  13. Joe Loveland says:

    The Motley Fool had an interesting take today. Among other things they a) also have the impression that Target has committed to not donate to political candidates and b) see a trend towards other corporations taking a similar tack:

    Last year, Target (NYSE: TGT) found itself in the bulls-eye of controversy related to its contributions to MN Forward, a conservative group that backed a political candidate with a track record of opposing gay rights. Customers, employees, and consumer groups fomented a fiery backlash, threatening to boycott the retailer.

    Activist shareholders like Trillium Asset Management and Walden Asset Management joined in the furor, filing resolutions at Target, Best Buy (NYSE: BBY), 3M (NYSE: MMM), and Pentair (NYSE: PNR), all of which made large donations to MN Forward.

    In response, Target has changed its policy on political contributions. The company still isn’t required to disclose every donation; gifts to trade associations and political groups remain notably exempt. However, the company’s new rules do block trade groups from using Target’s donations for political candidates or any other purpose that might influence elections.

    Pleased that both Target and Best Buy made changes that satisfied several of their major concerns, the activist investors have since withdrawn their resolutions at those companies. The activists also report that 3M has been open to discussion, but hasn’t changed its policies yet; shareholders will vote on the contribution question at its next annual meeting. Pentair has made no changes, and proved much less responsive than 3M, according to Trillium, so activists’ efforts at that company continue.

    A growing trend for transparency

    Inside Investor Relations reported that last year, shareholder resolutions related to contribution disclosure boasted an average of 30% shareholder support; Coventry Health Care (NYSE: CVH), CVS Caremark (NYSE: CVS), and Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) all recorded more than 40% of votes in favor of disclosure. It’s not difficult to imagine that such votes could even more significantly favor disclosure this year.

    Mutual funds are the undisputed heavyweights when it comes to shareholder votes, and they’re rapidly shedding any opposition to such disclosures. According to The Center for Political Accountability, in 2010, only a minority of mutual funds voted against shareholder resolutions pertaining to transparency and disclosure of political contributions; 53% of mainstream mutual funds either voted “for” or abstained on the Center’s model political disclosure resolution.

    Okay, I think I’m going back to Target, and maybe Best Buy (I’m less clear about their policy). I hope they don’t disappoint me.

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